CLEVELAND, Ohio — Several Northeast Ohio cities are spending millions of COVID-19 stimulus dollars to purchase surveillance cameras for law enforcement.
Those who support the increased surveillance say they are an invaluable tool, helping to deter and solve crimes. Critics, however, say more police surveillance further erodes civil rights and is a step in the wrong direction for police-community relations.
State and local governments throughout the United States received $350 billion through the American Rescue Plan Act, often abbreviated ARPA, to recover from the fiscal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of that money has been used on relatively non-controversial projects, such as improving sewer systems or removing lead pipes, but other expenses have drawn controversy.
In Northeast Ohio alone, Cleveland, Akron, North Olmsted and Canton have moved to increase police surveillance using ARPA money, reigniting the modern world’s perennial debate over balancing civil rights and public safety — and whether the advanced technology that promises to protect us is as effective as advertised.
Who is doing it?
The city of Cleveland approved spending roughly $4.5 million upgrading its surveillance network in late November 2021.
The cameras, part of the city’s Safe Smart CLE initiative, will be placed in “recreation centers, parks, neighborhoods, business districts, waterways, bridges and major thoroughfares,” according to the project’s request for proposals.
The document later asks potential vendors for their plans to place cameras in “hot spots.”
The proposal calls for surveillance cameras that can record in 1080p and that have an optical zoom of 32x. For comparison, an iPhone 13 has an optical zoom of 3x, according to cnet.
Opposition to Smart City technologies is worldwide.